From our base in Rostock,
we decided to take the train down to Berlin on a day trip. Compared to the UK, travelling by train in Germany is luxury. It would appear the German’s consider the train to be a service rather than a business where the shareholders are the highest priority…but enough of that.
As we were travelling on a Sunday, we were able to take advantage of a special weekend ticket (Schones-Wochenende-Ticket.). For 37EUR, up to 5 people could travel on 2nd class from Rostock to Berlin return on any of the direct trains plus travel in Berlin on the S-Bahn (city trains) was also included. The 250km (150miles) trip too around 2 hours 40 minutes on a fast, comfortable train.
As our time in Berlin was limited, I did what I always advise people to do when they want to see as much of a city as possible in a short space of time – we took a city tour by bus. The Berlin City Tour was one of a number of tour options we had and this one suited us perfectly as they had a stop at the Berlin Haptbahnhof (Main Station). The Berlin City Tour has a single route with 6 hop on/hop off points around the city taking in all the main sights of Berlin. The complete loop takes around 1 hour 45 minutes with short stops at the Brandenburg Gate, Alexandraplatz and the shopping street of Tauentzienstrasse. The tour commentary was provided in German and English by a guide sitting at the front of the bus.
Most people know Berlin as the Capital of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler and more recently as a city divided into East and West by the Cold War. However, the history of Berlin dates back to 1237 and there are a number of sculptures and landmarks in the city to mark its’ 750th anniversary. Berlin is also the place where President Kennedy addressed the crowds in 1963 and made his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” quote in a speech were he was underlining the US support for West Germany. Today, there is a Kennedy Museum located a few metres away from the Brandenburg gate. More recently, Barack Obama addressed a crowd of around 200,000 people in Berlin from the Angel in the Tiergarten.
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi’s Gestapo Headquarters were set up on Prinz-Albrehct-Strasse just one block away from Checkpoint Charlie. Part of the original Berlin Wall still stands here. The original buildings were partly destroyed during World War II and were finally demolished in 1956. Since 1997, a permanent exhibitions has been in place called the “Topography of Terror”. Across the road (and the former Berlin Wall) is the building where Herman Goering’s Air Defence Ministry conducted their operations, including the Battle of Britain.
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
As the section of the Berlin Wall ends, you will see a double line of bricks along the pavement and road. This line marks where the Berlin Wall used to stand and there are plaques at regular intervals that read “Berliner Mauer 1961 – 1989”. If you want a brief taste of the old East, it is possible to hire an old East German Trabant car for a short time and take part in a Trabant Safari around Berlin. One block along from the “Topography of Terror” exhibition is Checkpoint Charlie, the iconic crossing point of the East/West Berlin border. After the end of World War II, control of Berlin was given to the Allied Forces. The British, French and Americans controlled West Berlin while the Soviets control the East. In 1961 as the Cold War intensified, the people of Berlin woke up to find the Soviets were ringing West Berlin with miles and miles of barbed wire. Over time, the wall was strengthen and fortified dividing the city. However, West Berliners were still permitted to cross into the East (and back again) and foreign nationals could also cross the border. Checkpoint Charlie was one of the crossing points and it was here in late 1961 that tanks from America and the Soviet Union were involved in a stand-off that some feared could have resulted in World War III. Entrümpelung Berlin